Boston Celtics hierarchy must be feeling emboldened by star Point Guard Kyrie Irving’s hint to resign with the team once his contract comes to an end at the end of this season.
Irving will play in the final guaranteed year on his five year deal he signed with Cleveland Cavaliers in a few weeks. The last year is a player option Irving is sure to decline as it gives him an early entry into what could be his final mega contract.
Kyrie is slated to earn $21 million after this season which is far below what he is expected to earn at least $35 million per season once he pens a new deal. Though he and Gordon Hayward wont be involved in any more preseason games, Irving made an announcement to the Boston crowd he plans on resigning with the team he got traded to last season.
His run with the NBA team with the most titles got off to a terrible start as fellow new recruit Hayward suffered a horrific injury five minutes into the new season. Hayward-the former Utah Jazz Forward-missed the entire season to the injury.
On top of that, Boston lost to Irving’s former team to begin the season but things got better from there and Boston ended the campaign only a game away from making the NBA Finals. That feat was achieved without Kyrie who missed the postseason due to a knee injury and Hayward. Seeing what the young roster achieved despite the numerous setbacks, Irving is wise to stay in Boston for at least four more years beyond this season.
One of the players who stepped up in the face of adversity last season was Terry Rozier and his future is bound to change dramatically after Irving’s announcement. The backup Guard raised his market value at the business end of the season-the playoffs- when Irving was absent.
Rozier was brilliant against Milwaukee Bucks in the first round and was productive against Philadelphia Sixers and Cleveland. Due to Kyrie’s contract situation, many believed Rozier would be the franchise’s top playmaker once Kyrie skipped town. Based on the recent announcement, the opposite is likely to happen with Rozier likely to leave town. Once Irving pens his new deal, Boston will be hard pressed for cash to keep its roster together since Hayward and Al Horford will earn over $30 million respectively and Marcus Smart will earn $12.5 million. Rozier is in line to be paid $4 million which is cheap for a guy of his talent but in order to free up space on the salary sheet, he is a major trade candidate once this season is over.
Boston should cash in on Rozier’s appeal in the league for draft picks which will be necessary to make a trade for Anthony Davis or Giannis Antetokounmpo possible. Celtics deep roster gives Brad Stevens options to handle playmaking duties without sacrificing much. Looking at his display in the past months, interested teams in a trade will make such moves with Rozier in their starting unit in mind. This should be good news to Rozier who posits as a starting Guard in the league.
Another major reason for Rozier to step out in a starting unit is down to market forces after signing a sneaker deal with Puma. The sneaker company is making a comeback to the NBA after several decades out of the sport. It has signed young headliners DeAndre Ayton, Marvin Bagley, Zhaire Smith and Michael Porter Jnr. from the 2018 NBA Draft. It recently added DeMarcus Cousins to the list as the company bets on Cousins regaining his pre Achilles injury form and fronting the 2019 free agency.
Rozier’s deal with Puma makes him the only Guard among the company’s signees and there is a palpable feel, Puma reps will be pushing for a headline act to boost sales in a steep market dominated by Nike. It will take a long time for Nike to be upstaged but Puma can look at Adidas in roads into the market behind James Harden and Damian Lillard with the likes of Kristaps Porzingis growing to take over that spot.
In Ayton and Bagley, Puma has just about signed two of this generation’s best big men but tall big men especially Centers don’t sell shoes as much as Guards with flashy skills. With the NBA’s premier Guards all signed to lucrative deals with other companies, counting on the Rozier to champion the new wave of emerging Guards is a solid gamble.
However, that is likely not to happen as a backup to Irving beyond this season so a move away from Boston is the best thing that can happen to Rozier.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter